ALAMEDA COUNTY: Declares AIDS State Of Emergency
Alameda County supervisors voted unanimously yesterday to declare "a state of emergency ... because of the high incidence of HIV/AIDS infection among African Americans." The Los Angeles Times reports that the county's action is an attempt "to place the region at the head of the line for new federal funding aimed at stanching the epidemic." County Health Officer Dr. Arthur Chen "recited a litany of alarming statistics in asking for the state of emergency, noting that the AIDS rate among blacks in the county is five times that of whites and Latinos and that intravenous drug use is a major cause of the disease, particularly among women" (LaGanga/Curtius, 11/6). USA Today reports that African Americans account for 62% of the county's cases among women, 40% among "young people" and 69% among children.
A Plan, But No Money
Commenting on the emergency declaration, U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) said, "We're on the front lines, addressing a crisis." USA Today reports that the declaration "does not automatically trigger release of state or federal funds," but the "county's five-member board of supervisors issued the declaration in an effort to draw attention to the problem and perhaps encourage other communities to take similar action." Doretha Fournoy of AIDS Project East Bay said, "This is not a flood, it is a public health crisis" (Sternberg, 11/5).
The Los Angeles Times reports, however, that "the disparity between blacks and whites with AIDS is smaller in Alameda County than it is nationwide, because the AIDS rate among whites is higher in the county than other areas." Nationally, the AIDS rate among whites is 10.4 cases per 100,000, while in Alameda County it is 17.8. And in the rest of the country, "the AIDS rate among blacks is eight times that of whites," according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Times reports that "it is difficult to judge how severe Alameda County's problems are compared with other parts of the nation or the state" because AIDS statistics are not kept on a county-by-county basis. Richard Sun, HIV/AIDS director for the state Department of Health Services, said, "The problem of HIV and AIDS among African Americans is not uniform across the state. Alameda County is particularly hard hit in this area." The Times notes that 18% of county residents are black, making it "the state's second largest black population after Los Angeles County," according to Alameda officials (Los Angeles Times, 11/6). Click here for previous coverage of minorities and AIDS.